13 small ways to be happy right now.

According to recent research from the University of NSW happiness peaks in your 20’s, dives in mid-life and returns after 65.

If you looked at it drawn as a graph it’s a U. It’s called the happiness curve. It’s shaped like a smile – that you want to punch in the chops if you are north of 28 and aren’t anywhere near retirement.

There are decades in the bottom of that U. Decades and decades of life getting more serious. Of children and mortgages and jobs that lack security. Of health worries and broken dreams and unexplained, fast growing hairs in strange places. Does it sound fun yet 20-somethings?

My early 20's were great. Brilliant. If I look back and close my eyes, I really think that I could have been a different person. I didn’t worry so much, I didn’t have so many daily responsibilities, I did things on a whim. It’s such a lovely word: whim. I travelled, I wore clothes that didn’t suit me that I thought were spectacular, I worked in places until I tired of them and then I moved on without a second thought. I did a lot of things without thinking (and I’m still here which is amazing considering that night in Barcelona).

Now I’m one of life’s great thinkers. Not in a Rodin kind of way, but in a there-are-two-thousand-thoughts-in-my-head at any time kind. Life is different at 40 than at 20. That's a truth. It's also true that no-one can be happy all of the time. It’s a state. And by definition states are transitory. Happiness is only part of our life picture but we seem to return to the foot of this great idol as though it is both a right and 24/7 necessity.

There are other things that make up the scaffolding of a good life: love, fulfillment, knowledge, creativity, compassion, growth, watching someone walk out of a bathroom with toilet paper on their shoe (did I mention compassion?), to name a few.

I want happiness to be in my day, and I know rather than whine that life has lost it’s crazy magic, and that it’s tough sometimes, I have a responsibility to try and make myself happy. No-one is going to knock on my door and say:  “I’m the happiness fairy and I’m here to sprinkle happy dust all over you. Now bend down motha f*cker”. (You can put that on an inspirational Instagram quote feed if you want).

To facilitate a happiness spike in the day, I’ve made a list of little things that just might deliver an upswing. It’s scientifically based, just like the Happiness research. I stood up and yelled “what are little things that make you happy?” to a room of about 100 women. I also thought about what makes me happy. Or even what gives me a a little frisson of internal light and warmth when I need one.

Then I wrote a letter to those researchers who came up with the Happiness curve and said maybe you should stick to working out what came before the Big Bang. I mean, was there just nothing before this huge big earth and, if there was, how could that be?


So here it is: Happiness for people at the bottom of the U.

1. Exercise. Regularly.

It’s been said before because it really works. It will release endorphins and make you feel good in the short term and in the long term improve your health. Do anything. Do something.

2. Buy fresh flowers.

Whenever you walk past that vase you’ll feel good. Scented candles also give you a sweet lift.

3. Take a warm shower.

Feel the water and draw love hearts in the steam on the glass. Don't think about how many wet towels there are in the house.

4. On a Saturday afternoon take half an hour to lie down.

If there is noise that makes this hard, download Soothing Ocean Sounds or Flowing Rivers or some kind of wonderful white noise that takes the rest of the world away. Then make a cocoon around you with pillows to block out light. Then just lie there as the world goes on around you and do absolutely nothing (this one is obviously mine).

5. Leave your phone in another room.

Get your children to leave their phone in another room. Play Uno together or HeadCase or Pictionary or something that has dust on it. At first you mightn’t want to, but soon everyone will start laughing at each other and that kind of family humiliation will make it worth it.

6. Take your husband/partner out for an unexpected drink (if the kids are fine by themselves for an hour).

It doesn’t have to be dinner. Just a quick, cheeky drink at the local pub. And talk. And probably laugh.

7. Go to brunch with a girlfriend you love.

No explanation needed.

8. Treat that person on the bus/train/queue like they are a person.

Make eye contact. Say thank you when they move over for you to sit down. Unless they are .05% of the population with serious issues, it’s amazing what a bit of positive stranger connection can do.

9. Make a play-list of your favourite songs ever.

Put them on in the car while you sing very loudly and make groovy mouth faces to the driver stopped next to you at the lights. Make even bigger groovy mouth I-can-sing-like-Rhianna faces if kids are in car.

10. Spend some money on the little things that make a big difference.

Get your eyebrows done professionally. Get a manicure and pedicure. Get a blow-dry if you're going somewhere special.

11. Take a swim in the ocean.

There is something about the water and the waves and the blue and the salt. It was the beginning of life for a reason.

12. Cook a really healthy meal for your family and watch them eat it.

It's good for everyone in the family and this one is strangely satisfying. Perhaps it is saying very clearly to the world and yourself that you are getting something right. It might also be saying I love you.

13. Say yes to something you normally wouldn’t do.

Say no too (but that's a whole other story).  But yes to those experiential things in life that you have thought about but have dismissed. Hiking, kayaking, ice skating, bike riding, surfing, trail running, bungee jumping, Italian cooking classes, carpentry course ... the list goes on.